Skin-to-skin (also known as kangaroo care)
Skin-to-skin means having your baby on you, their naked skin next to yours with a blanket over both of you for warmth. Parents who have given birth should be able to do this straight after the baby has been born, even if they have had a caesarean section, unless there is a medical reason why it’s not possible (you can put it in your birth plan). If you can’t hold your baby, your birth partner (if you have one) can.
There are lots of benefits to parents having skin-to-skin contact with their baby. It can:
- help you bond with your baby
- encourage breastfeeding
- keep your baby warm
- regulate your baby’s heart rate, breathing rate and blood sugars
- comfort your baby.
If you can’t hold your baby skin-to-skin, you could hold their hand or gently touch them so they can feel your warmth. Any touch from a parent can comfort your baby and help you bond.
Skin-to-skin can happen for as long as you and your baby are comfortable with it. Just make sure you are fully awake and alert because falling asleep on a bed, sofa or armchair with your baby increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Skin-to-skin in NICU
- reduced hospital stays
- improved physical growth and development
- improved social development
- improved breastfeeding.
It’s completely natural to feel disappointed or upset if you’re not able to enjoy skin-to-skin contact as soon as your baby is born. But you can start and carry on doing skin-to-skin in the days, weeks and months to come. If you breastfeed, you’ll have plenty of opportunities. Both parents can do skin-to-skin when bottle-feeding too.
Eye contact with your baby
Newborn babies can see, but their vision isn’t very focused. Their eyesight develops gradually over the first few months. By the time your baby is 2 weeks old, you’ll probably notice their eyes following your face.
You can bond with your baby and help them learn to recognise your face by giving them plenty of eye contact and lots of smiles.
Chatter, chatter, chatter
One of the most important things you can do with your baby is hold them close and talk to them calmly every day, as often as you can. You can chat to your baby about anything you like. For example, what you’re doing, what’s around you or what they might be thinking. You can even start reading to them if you like.
You could also try singing to your baby, which helps them tune into the rhythm of language. Eventually, your baby will start making sounds and gurgling back at you. Try repeating the sounds your baby makes back to them, which teaches your baby useful lessons about listening and taking turns in conversion.
Hold your baby as much as possible (in your arms or in a sling). When you cuddle your baby, they feel safe and loved. You can’t ‘spoil’ a baby with lots of cuddling – it’s what babies need. You may sometimes feel like you’re always left ‘holding the baby’, but treasure these moments because they’ll be fidgeting and running about before you know it!
Find out more about your baby's development and how they learn to communicate with you.